EPT Barcelona: The view from the rail

September 05, 2009

It’s Saturday night in Barcelona and the casino, that’s everything from the tournament area to the video roulette machines, is crammed full of people, weekend revellers and poker enthusiasts alike, either looking over the rail at something they’d like a go at themselves or at what they were doing yesterday before they busted out.

Finding the tournament floor is as simple as joining the large loop of people leaning over a makeshift crash barrier looking at the tables remaining, a bullring or a school yard fight, more than four deep in places.

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But the rational part of your head asks: who would watch such a thing? Poker is not the ideal spectator sport. Innovations such as hole card cams and EPT Live bring the game to life, turning it into one of the best to games to watch, but right here there’s none of that. No cards to see, and in places you can only just make out the players. What would drive someone to watch it?

I asked a guy perched next to Juan Manuel Pastor’s table. I had a look from where he was standing and all I could see past Nicolas Levi’s hat was Surinder Sunar.

“I’m here to see the pros,” said Daniel from Barcelona. “Minieri, Negreanu, Eastgate. I’m from Barcelona so I also like Juan Manuel Pastor, Juan Maceiras…”

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Huge in Spain, Daniel Negreanu

I didn’t like to but I brought up the issue of not being able to see anything.

“I just like to see the pros. I like the game. I played a super satellite yesterday,” he said. “Too many Norways.” I nodded that I understood. He’d stepped away from the rail to speak to me. Now his place had been taken by someone else. There was nothing I could do.

Moving further round two guys named Jorge and Xabi explained to me their motivation for standing four deep on the rail. “I want to see Negreanu – he’s my hero!” explained Xabi, also from Barcelona. What about the hopeless position he had on the rail?

“Yes, it’s difficult to see,” said Jorge, “But when they go we’ll be waiting”, he added, pointing at the people between him and the barrier. Admirable dedication; if you’re going to stand and watch you want to see the guys you know.

I asked the same thing of a well dressed woman towards the corner, standing beneath the staircase. She seemed to be drifting off into a kind of poker reverie; misting over, witness to her own poker heaven perhaps, watching the game she loves. What is it about the game that draws in so many people?

“I work here. I’m in charge,” she said. “I have to watch.”

Well it’s not a game for everyone.

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